Thankuni Leaf (Centella asiatica)

Botanical Name::Centella asiatica
Family: Mackinlayaceae
Genus: Centella
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Apiales
Species: C. asiatica
Common names : Gotu Kola, Asiatic Pennywort, Indian Pennywort, Luei Gong Gen, Takip-kohol, Antanan, Pegagan, Pegaga, vallaarai , Kula kud, Bai Bua Bok , Brahmi (this last name is shared with Bacopa monnieri) and rau má (literally: mother vegetable- Vietnamese). In Assamese it is known as Manimuni. It is used as a medicinal herb in Ayurvedic medicine, traditional African medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine. Botanical synonyms include Hydrocotyle asiatica L. and Trisanthus cochinchinensis (Lour.).In Telugu Language this is known as “Saraswathi Plant” in India. In Kannada  language is known as Ondelaga.

Habitat : Native to India, Sri Lanka, northern Australia, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea, and other parts of Asia.Centella grows along ditches and in low wet areas. In Indian and Southeast Asian centella, the plant frequently suffers from high levels of bacterial contamination, possibly from having been harvested from sewage ditches. Because the plant is aquatic, it is especially sensitive to pollutants in the water, which easily are incorporated into the plant.

Description
The stems are slender, creeping stolons, green to reddish green in color, interconnecting one plant to another. It has long-stalked, green, reniform leaves with rounded apices which have smooth texture with palmately netted veins. The leaves are borne on pericladial petioles, around 2 cm. The rootstock consists of rhizomes, growing vertically down. They are creamish in color and covered with root hairs.
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The flowers are pinkish to red in color, born in small, rounded bunches (umbels) near the surface of the soil. Each flower is partly enclosed in two green bracts. The hermaphrodite flowers are minute in size (less than 3 mm), with 5-6 corolla lobes per flower. Each flower bears five stamens and two styles. The fruit are densely reticulate, distinguishing it from species of Hydrocotyle which have smooth, ribbed or warty fruit.

The crop matures in three months and the whole plant, including the roots, is harvested manually.

Edible use:
Centella is used as a leafy green in Sri Lankan cuisine, where it is called Gotu Kola. In Sinhalese (Sri Lanka) Gotu = conical shape and Kola= leaf. It is most often prepared as mallung; a traditional accompaniment to rice and curry, and goes especially well with vegetarian dishes such as parippu’ (dhal), and jackfruit or pumpkin curry. It is considered quite nutritious. In addition to finely chopped gotu kola, mallung almost always contains grated coconut and may also contain finely chopped green chilis, chili powder (1/4 teaspoon), turmeric powder (1/8 teaspoon) and lime (or lemon) juice.

A variation of the extremely nutritious porridge known as Kola Kenda is also made with Gotu Kola by the Sinhalese people of Sri Lanka. Kola Kenda is made with very well boiled red rice (with extra liquid), coconut milk and Gotu Kola which is liquidized. The porridge is accompanied with Jaggery for sweetness. Centella leaves are also used in the sweet “pennywort drink.”

In Indonesia, the leaves are used for sambai oi peuga-ga, an Aceh type of salad, also mixed into asinan in Bogor.

In Vietnam and Thailand this leaf is used for preparing a drink or can be eaten in raw form in salads or cold rolls.

In Malay cuisine the leaves of this plant are used for ulam, a type of Malay salad.

It is one of the constituents of the Indian summer drink “thandaayyee”.

Cultivation method: For rapid propagation vegetative organ especially stolon and seeds are used.

Medicinal Uses:
Gotu kola is a mild adaptogen, is mildly antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcerogenic, anxiolytic, a cerebral tonic, a circulatory stimulant, a diuretic, nervine and vulnerary.

When eaten raw as a salad leaf, pegaga is thought to help maintain youthfulness. In Thailand cups with gotu kola leaves are used as an afternoon pick me up. A decoction of juice from the leaves is thought to relieve hypertension. This juice is also used as a general tonic for good health. A poultice of the leaves is also used to treat open sores.

Richard Lucas claimed in a book published in 1966 (second edition in 1979) that a subspecies “Hydrocotyle asiatica minor” allegedly from Sri Lanka also called “Fo ti tieng”, contained a longevity factor called ‘youth Vitamin X’ said to be ‘a tonic for the brain and endocrine glands’ and maintained that extracts of the plant help circulation and skin problems. However according to medicinal herbalist Michael Moore, it appears that there is no such subspecies and no Vitamin X is known to exist. Nonetheless some of the cerebral circulatory and dermatological actions claimed from centella (as hydrocotyle) have a solid basis.

Several scientific reports have documented Centella asiatica’s ability to aid wound healing, which is responsible for its traditional use in leprosy. Upon treatment with Centella asiatica, maturation of the scar is stimulated by the production of type I collagen. The treatment also results in a marked decrease in inflammatory reaction and myofibroblast production.

The isolated steroids from the plant have been used to treat leprosy. In addition, preliminary evidence suggests that it may have nootropic effects. Centella asiatica is used to re-vitalize the brain and nervous system, increase attention span and concentration , and combat aging. Centella asiatica also has anti-oxidant properties. It works for venous insufficiency. It is used in Thailand for opium detoxification.

Ayurvedic medicine
In India it is popularly known by a variety of names: Bemgsag, Brahma manduki, Brahmanduki, Brahmi, Ondelaga (North India, West India), Gotu kola, Khulakhudi, Mandukparni, Mandookaparni, Mandukaparni (South India), or Thankuni depending on region.

Bacopa monnieri is the more widely known Brahmi—both have some common therapeutic properties in Vedic texts and both are used for improving memory. C. asiatica is called “Brahmi” particularly in north India, although that may be a case of mistaken identification that was introduced during the 16th century, when brahmi was confused with mandukaparni, a name for C. asiatica.

Probably the earliest study of Mandookaparni as Medya Rasayana (improving the mental ability) was carried out at Dr.A.Lakshmipathy Research Centre(now under CCRAS)VHS,Adyar,Chennai by Dr.M.V.R Apparao,Kanchana Srinivasan et al.

Village people use it hugely for its availability and easy cultivation. Juice of leaves is used to cure dysentery and bowel complaints especially for babies and used as tonic also. It is also used for eczema, ulcers, liver complaints, rheumatism, improving memory, piles and irregular menstruation. Saving hair leaf juice is also very effective.

Folklore
Gotu Kola is a minor feature in the longevity myth of the Tai Chi Chuan master Li Ching-Yun. He purportedly lived to be 256, due in part to his usage of traditional Chinese herbs including Gotu Kola.

A popular folklore tale from Sri Lanka speaks of a prominent king from the 10th century AD named Aruna Withane who claimed that Gotu Kola provided him with energy and stamina to satisfy his 50-woman harem.

Background: Elderly people of this region(Eastern India & Bangladesh) have a strong belief that thankuni leaf as a pulp or extract can control loose motion. The mechanism of action of thankuni leaf extract is not known but the elderly, especially grandmothers, use thankuni leaf extracts for their grandchildren who suffer from loose motion. Objective: Evaluate control of motion and fluid loss as affected by intake of thankuni extract. Methodology: In a prospective study, 25 children aged 1-2 year(s), having more than 5 loose motions/day were randomly advised to take 60 mL of thankuni extract (extracted from 50 leafs with stem). The children were suffering from persistent malnutritional diarrhoea. They were also fed khichuri made with 300 g of rice, 200 g of vegetables, two eggs, 150 g of fish, 150 g of musur dal, and 30 mL of soybean oil. The total amount of khichuri was divided into 3 meals, and after each meal, 60 mL of thankuni extract was given to ingest. They were also advised to drink oral saline (tasty saline) in between the meals, and if capable, to eat fruits, such as banana, mango, guava, star fruit, and shaddock. The study was conducted at the private chamber of the author during 3 January-3 June 2003. None was admitted to hospital. Urinary excretion and stool of each patient were examined routinely on the first and the fifth day. After fifth day, they were advised to eat normal diets. Results: On the second day, 5 patients showed controlled motion (2-3 motions a day). Eleven cases showed controlled motion on the third day, 7 cases on the fourth day, and 2 cases on the fifth day. Signs of dehydration were absent in 15 cases on the third day, 8 cases on the fourth day, and 2 cases on the fifth day. Motion and dehydration both were controlled within the fifth day of thankuni therapy. Conclusion: Treatment of diarrhoea with thankuni, a common herb in Bangladesh, is not yet established, but the observation on 25 cases in this study showed 100% cure within 5 days. So, ICDDR,B  and other big children hospitals handling diarrhoea should give a clinical trial  upon thankuni extract and should establish this low-cost easy treatment in Bangladesh and abroad.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centella_asiatica

Medicinal Plants Of Bangladesh
Transfusion Medicine, Comilla Medical College, Comilla, Bangladesh

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